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Relative Foster Care and Adoption CLE

May 24 @ 9:00 am-12:00 pm


Black Activist Kelis Houston To Teach Attorneys About Racial Bias in Child Welfare Cases

April 28, 2022

Black activist Kelis Houston will speak about how racial biases operate in child welfare cases, in a continuing legal education course for attorneys.

The program, Relative Foster Care and Adoption, will educate attorneys about the disproportionate removal of Black and Indigenous children from their families, and will train attorneys in advocating for relatives as placement options in lieu of placement with strangers. Houston will also talk about the disastrous consequences that have flowed from the routine removal of BIPOC children from both their immediate and their extended families.

Houston chairs the NAACP’s child welfare committee for the Minnesota chapter. In addition, she is the founder and director of Village Arms, a nonprofit organization providing. guidance and liaison services to Black families caught up in the child welfare system. Before then, she was a child protection caseworker and guardian ad litem. In those roles, she acquired considerable first-hand knowledge of the racial injustices and deleterious impact on BIPOC families the child removal system has had. For the past couple of years, she has been doing grassroots lobbying for law reforms aimed at preserving African American families.

Houston’s presentation will be followed by practical legal guidance from experienced Minnesota family law attorney Rhia Spears. Spears will explain how to best represent relatives and kin in child welfare proceedings, particularly at the post-permanency stage. Misty Coonce, director of the Minnesota foster/adoption agency Ampersand Families, will round out the program with a practical discussion of home studies and foster care licensing requirements.

The program is being hosted by Echion CLE, a relatively new continuing legal education provider. Echion is not associated with any bar association or government agency. It strives to address important topics that other CLE providers generally will not.

Last year, for example, Echion sponsored a program on the impact of child sex crimes on male victims. Another course Echion CLE offered last year subjected the gender paradigm in family court cases to critical review for the first time.

“Now the time has come for another difficult and long-overdue discussion,” attorney Tom James, the founding director of Echion CLE, said.

“Black children are placed in foster care about three times as often as White children are. It is about 15 times as often for Indigenous children. Both the legislative and judicial branches in Minnesota have known about this extreme racial disparity for years. So far, however, very little has been done about it,” he said.

“With this program, we aim to launch a two-prong attack on the problem,” he said. “First, we intend to raise awareness of racial stereotypes among members of the legal profession. Knowledge is the best tool we have for combating bias. The other piece of it is training attorneys to represent relatives in child welfare cases effectively.”

The Minnesota Continuing Legal Education Board has approved the course for 3.0 hours of CLE credit, including 1.0 hour of Elimination of Bias credit. CLE credit may also be claimed in New York, Florida, and several other states. Advance registration is required.

More information and registration links are available at: https://echioncle.com/relative-adoption

Contact person: Tom James, Echion CLE Program director
Email: tom@echioncle.com
Phone: 320 237-2711


May 24
9:00 am-12:00 pm
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Tom James
320 237-2711
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Echion CLE (Virtual webinar)
POB 46162
Plymouth, MN 55446 United States
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